Episode Title: "Cherokee Rose"
Writer: Evan Reilly
Director: Billy Gierhart
Previously on "The Walking Dead":
Three days ago, Sophia (Madison Lintz) was chased into the woods by zombies and she hasn't been seen since. As former Sheriff Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and his friend Shane Walsh (Jon Bernthal) searched for her, they witnessed Rick's son Carl (Chandler Riggs) get shot by a man named Otis (Pruitt Taylor Vince); who accidentally hit him while aiming at a deer. With Carl's life on the line, they raced to the farm of Otis' employer, Hershel Greene (Scott Wilson). Later, Hershel's daughter, Maggie Greene (Lauren Cohan) went out to find Rick's wife, Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) and bring her to the farm with the other survivors to follow.
Hershel told the Grimes that he could only operate on Carl if he had more advanced medical equipment. Shane and Otis volunteered to raid the FEMA shelter at the local high school, however they became trapped in the school after procuring what they needed. With both men injured and down to two bullets between them, Shane shot Otis and left him behind for the zombies to devour. Shane made it back to the farm in time for the equipment to be used on Carl and Hershel saved his life. Alone in the bathroom, Shane shaved his head to hide the evidence that he and Otis fought with each other before Shane left him for dead.
Despite not having a body to bury, the survivors and Hershel's family hold a memorial for Otis. Patricia (Diane McNeill) begs Shane to say something about Otis and tell her how her boyfriend died. As Shane remembers the grim truth, he spins a tale about Otis' heroic sacrifice that saved his own life and Carl's. And because Shane looks so shell-shocked when repeating it, everyone believes him. After the memorial, the group begins planning a more organized search for Sophia, but Rick and Shane are both urged by Hershel to stay out of it until they recover from their respective health issues.
Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) takes off on his own to go find Sophia while Rick suggests that Glenn (Steven Yeun) join Maggie on a medicine run later in the day. Hershel also told Rick that he and his group of survivors could only stay until Carl had healed and Sophia was found, but no longer. While checking the nearby water wells, Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn) and T-Dog (IronE Singleton) discover a massive and bloated zombie stuck at the bottom. At Dale's urging, they opt not to shoot it in the hopes of not contaminating the water any further. The group assembles and tries to use a canned ham to lure the zombie out. When that fails, they decide to use Glenn as live bait.
This is a terrible plan.
Glenn is lowered down on a rope to toss a loop around the zombie, but the survivors lose control of the rope and almost lose Glenn down the well. Did I mention that this is a terrible plan? The survivors ultimately pull Glenn back up alive and unharmed. He even got the rope around the zombie so they can pull it up as well. However, just when they get the zombie halfway out of the well, his body breaks in half and his guts contaminate the water. T-Bag bashes the zombie's brains in and the group has an epic fail on their hands. Elsewhere, Rick gets a little desperate and much more direct with Hershel. He begs the older man to reconsider his decision and Hershel says that he will… if Rick and his survivors abide by his rules.
Before he leaves for the pharmacy, Lori approaches Glenn to retrieve something from the feminine hygiene section. And on the ride to the store, Glenn tries unconvincingly to build himself up in Maggie's eyes. Once inside, he finds the item for Lori and Maggie catches him with a box of condoms in his hand. She lightly teases him about being very confident that he'll sleep with her before she tells him that she'll have sex with him right now. Because she doesn't have a lot of other options and why not? In the aftermath, Glenn clearly enjoyed himself but Maggie tells him that it was a one time thing.
In the woods, Daryl's search for Sophia comes up empty. But he does find a flower, which he brings back Sophia's mother, Carol Peletier (Melissa McBride). And Carol is touched when Daryl relates the legend of the flower — Cherokee Rose — and he reiterates that they will find her daughter. Inside Hershel's home, Rick gives his Sheriff's hat to his son and he slowly removes his uniform as Lori comforts him. She tells him to stay with Carl a little longer before slipping outside to examine the object that Glenn brought back for her. It's a pregnancy test and almost immediately, Lori confirms that she is pregnant. But is the father Rick or Shane?
I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one frustrated by the maddeningly slow pace of "The Walking Dead" this season. I really love this show, but it needs to get moving again. I'm not sure if the previously reported budget restrictions are responsible for keeping the action to a minimum. However, if the story is just going to proceed at glacial rate than the series risks losing the audience's attention.
There are still a lot of parts to enjoy, particularly the zombie in the well… both halves. That was one of the most memorable zombie designs in a long time and it made for a great reveal. On the other hand, the survivors' plan to lure it out with a side of Glenn… that was pretty stupid on their part. Clean water is probably rare in that world, but even if they got the creature out without spilling its guts; who wants to be the first person to take a drink from zombie springs? "It's water so tasty, you'll…. brains…".
Aside from Rick, the bulk of this episode was pretty Glenn-centric and Steven Yeun stepped up with a convincing portrayal of Glenn as a great everyman hero. Glenn is a capable guy, but his awkwardness with Maggie was well played. And their tryst was more involving here than it was in the source material. There was something about their hook up in the comic that just didn't register as well as it does when both characters are represented by real people.
However, the big surprise of "The Walking Dead" this season has been the humanizing of Daryl Dixon. Most of his search for Sophia in this episode felt like a waste of time, but that was great monologue that he had about the Cherokee Rose. There's no escaping this conclusion: Daryl has a heart and he's actually come to care for the people around him. Except maybe Rick… But the way Daryl keeps going out of his way to help the group and find Sophia really shows how far he's come as a character from the stereotype he seemed to be in the middle of season one.
Meanwhile, Shane was backed into eulogizing the man that he murdered at the funeral. It would have been different if Otis really had sacrificed himself as Shane descrbed. But instead, Shane has to live with what he did… and what he's going to do. Because if he can justify murdering Otis, who else would Shane find expendable in the next crisis? It's bad enough that Lori is sending Shane signals that she can forgive what he did to her. If that baby is his, how long before that blows up in everyone's face?
I was certain that the secret that Jenner whispered into Rick's ear last season was about Lori's pregnancy. But it must be something else, otherwise it would be anticlimactic to hear it now. However, it would be nice if it at least came up in conversation again.
The easy thing to do about this season's creative direction is to blame it on AMC for firing Frank Darabont. But we're still in the episodes that were overseen by Darabont, so this long stretch of relatively quiet stories must have been part of his original plan. I just hope that the survivors aren't hanging around Hershel's farm for the entire season.
Crave Online Rating: 7 out of 10.